The Youth of Utah Advocacy Coalition (YUTAC) is an organization that empowers mentally ill young adults and youth who've been involved the system to have a leading role in shaping policy, ending stigma, and community building. Our monthly newsletter provides a platform for young adults to share their voices and experiences with a wider audience.
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Autism Acceptance Is Needed More Than Autism Awareness
By Whitney Lee Geertsen
The autistic rights movement is pushing for acceptance over awareness. Most of us promote neurodiversity, and view autism as a natural and healthy neurological variation. In people there are variations in colors, sexual attractions, sizes, and in brains. Often awareness campaigns are used in response to diseases or societal problems like cancer, asthma, or suicide. Autism acceptance is like Black History Month, International Day for Women, or Indigenous People’s Month: These campaigns all promote acceptance of marginalized populations, while spreading awareness about the problems and triumphs faced by these diverse populations.
Autism Acceptance is about accepting autism as a neurological difference. We follow the social model of disability. The social model of disability states that, “We are more disabled by the society we live in rather than by our bodies or our diagnoses (Stella Young).” Autism Acceptance isn’t just a celebration of autism, but a push to highlight the many barriers autistics face. It also focuses on exposing the harms of alarm campaigns, stigmatizing attitudes towards autism. Autism Awareness campaigns ignore autistic voices, and tend to highlight allistic (non-autistic) professionals and parents. Autism Speaks is the biggest perpetrator bad awareness. Very little of their money goes to support individuals and families. Most of it goes towards research specifically set out to find a "cure" for autism. They promote autism as being as something frightening and mysterious. Because of Autism Speaks, the color blue, and puzzle pieces can be triggering to autistics, and are viewed as a statement of ignoring autistic voices.
In response to #LIUB (Light It Up Blue) we use #RedInstead, #ToneItDownTaupe, or #LightItUpGold. The infinity symbol is the most commonly accepted symbol for autistic acceptance and neurodiversity. Organizations that actually help autistic people include The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network, and Self Advocates becoming empowered.
Allistic people can be better allies to autistic people by seeking information sources written or recommended by autistic people. Use identity first language when speaking about autistic people. Avoid the use of functioning labels like "low-functioning" and "high-functioning" — such labels condense a multifaceted spectrum into an overly simplistic and nonexistent linear spectrum. Promote and support autistic led organizations, campaigns, and symbols. Get to know autistic people, especially through social media platforms. Finally, seek to learn about the diverse world of disability: Many autistics, like allistics, have co-existing conditions.
Find more resources about autism spectrum disorders here
Whitney is an autistic activist who is passionate about disability rights and neurodiversity. In addition to her work in advocacy, she is passionate about animals and our environment. You can find more of her work on her blog, Autistic Observations
I’ve always been the kid to finish last. No matter what it was, I was last: Art, figuring out how to multiply, reading a book. I could never keep up with anyone. I felt like I was falling behind, when in reality, I was just going at my own pace. As a kid, I was told “shoot for the moon because at least you’ll end up in the stars.” I created a piece that showed that. It is a girl on a swing with the moon looking at her. It won first place in an art competition with over 30 schools competing. For the first time, I truly felt like I was more than just the kid who finished last.
Kyla Colburn, 16
Artist and Student
Managing ADHD As A Young Adult
By Sofia Garza
I could read in two languages before I even started kindergarten. From a young age, I knew how to hold conversations on complex topics with adults. My intelligence was never in question, but it wasn’t carrying over into the classroom. I couldn’t sit still, focus, or complete tasks. I was constantly falling under the expectations that others had set for me, and I couldn’t point to why.
I went through my entire K-12 education not meeting expectations. My grades came back with As in English, History, and Theatre, but Ds and Fs in everything else. I was called "stupid," "lazy," and a whole host of other things by the occasional teacher or administrator. I tried so hard to be "better" countless times. Yet, I never seemed to be able to succeed.
Then, my first semester at college was a disaster. Along with the expected rocky transition of going in to higher education, my parents got divorced, and my two closest friends were now living hundreds of miles away. I was facing all of the same academic issues I had in high school, but now in the higher stakes of a university setting. Two months into the semester, I found myself in a crisis therapy session, which instigated the series of events that would lead to my ADHD diagnosis.
All of the university diagnosticians and psychologists I met with were shocked that I had never been diagnosed with or treated for ADHD. All of the signs were there, everything pointed to ADHD. Once all the kinks of my treatment plan and medication were ironed out, I noticed a lot of change. My executive dysfunction does not prevent me from doing the things I want and need to do, like showering, eating, and a whole host of other seemingly basic tasks. I can finally focus on lectures and conversations. I can finally start and finish tasks in a timely manner. That’s not to say that I’m magically cured of my ADHD: I still have symptoms that aren’t being addressed, and now have to worry about paying for my medication each month, managing side effects, and taking it daily. However, having access to counseling and psychological services on campus at my university has been life changing. I can’t encourage other students enough to find out what resources are available to them.
Sofia Garza is a student at Weber State University, working towards a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. Sofia has been an activist and advocate for various social justice causes throughout her life, attending her first rally at three years old, sitting on her auntie’s shoulders with a tiny fist in the air.